Everywhere we go we are asked if we are back in school and if we are, how is it going?
On Monday, August 31st we had our 16th first day of school. We knew all along it would happen, but since March, we didn’t know exactly what it would look like. Each day since then has been one of planning for 3 possible scenarios and adjusting daily as conditions dictate. It has been, and continues to be, difficult to predict too far down the line with any certainty. There have been a lot of life lessons and reminders these past months thanks to the pandemic. Yes, we can plan, but we are reminded how little control we have and lean ever more on our faith and trust that things will work out. As Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
So how did our first week go? Well, it was different, that’s for sure. Students and staff entered through different doorways and were quickly ushered over to change from commuter masks to school masks, have their temperature taken and answer the health questions before gaining admittance. Joyful greetings were plentiful, but hugs were held back. Students were escorted to their new homerooms where they joined their cohort of classmates and new teaching family. Breakfast was brought to them. Or, if their family had elected to learn virtually, had been delivered to their home along with their lunch.
As students are not allowed to leave the classroom without an adult escort, the school was unusually quiet. Our normal stampede of feet up to the third floor to share in our daily school-wide Morning Gathering was replaced by hitting play. Now we start our mornings at school and at home via a virtual Morning Gathering. Still, it was comforting when everyone stood wherever they were and recited the SMPA Honor Code together. Even through masked faces, our togetherness could be heard and felt.
All week we tried to remember to follow all the new procedures put in place to keep us all safe, to adjust to new equipment meant to help include and engage our students learning from home even more, and to keep the day moving, educational and fun.
Overall, things went well. As we put into practice all the new measures, we learned what worked and what needed to be tweaked. The kids were subdued, but they still joked, played at recess wearing their masks and ate snack together sitting 6’ apart on towels outside. School felt the same and different. It was the beginning of our new normal.
At the end of the first day I saw two students sitting 6’ apart in chairs in the hallway waiting to be picked up. Their book bags sat at their feet and they had returned to their commuter masks, one in camouflage, the other solid colored. I asked how their day was. Both answered, “Good.”
“Oh yeah? What was so good about it?” I asked.
“Everything!” replied one student. “I had a great day. The whole day was great!”
“Me too!” said the other student.